Boozer, Bulls' resiliency earns them hard-fought win over Nets
April 4, 2013, 8:45 pm
(USA Today Sports Images)
NEW YORK -- Equal parts resilience and Carlos Boozer resulted in a winning recipe for the Bulls Thursday night in Brooklyn, as they managed to stave off the Nets, 92-90, despite missing five of their key rotation players.
Despite beginning the game in dreadful fashion, the Bulls made gradual inroads throughout the course of the evening. They eventually seized the lead in the fourth quarter and managed to hold on for the comeback victory, thanks in large part to Boozer’s monster performance (29 points, 18 rebounds) as well as their trademark stingy defense and timely contributions from the few players who saw action at the Barclays Center.
More short-handed than usual—Taj Gibson (left-knee sprain during Tuesday’s loss in Washington) joined sidelined teammates Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Rip Hamilton and Marco Belinelli—the Bulls (37-29) started out in an 8-0 hole before a drive by All-Star Luol Deng (18 points, seven rebounds) got them on the board nearly three minutes into the contest.
Nets All-Star center Brook Lopez (28 points), frequently fed by point guard Deron Williams (30 points, 10 assists), was dominant in the early going for the hosts. Brooklyn built a double-digit lead as the first quarter’s midway point approached, prompting a Chicago timeout.
Even for the Bulls, known for their periodic offensive droughts, it was a miserable offensive display. They were stuck on four points through the four minute mark of the frame before mustering up a relative scoring windfall for the remainder of the stanza.
Forced to utilize the likes of deep reserve Vladimir Radmanovic as time went on, the undermanned Bulls trailed, 26-13, after one quarter at least partially due to their brutal 26.3 percent field-goal shooting.
Deng’s scoring, a lift off the bench from instant-offense guard Nate Robinson (12 points, five assists) and Boozer, who received increased defensive attention and struggled early, ensured that Brooklyn wouldn’t run away with the game at the outset of the second quarter.
But while the Bulls continued to be behind by a double-digit margin, the Nets (38-28) couldn’t fully take advantage of their guests. The home team experienced execution issues and the visitors gradually started to knock down more shots.
Improved defense and rebounding—the efforts of Boozer and Jimmy Butler (16 points, 10 rebounds) on the glass allowed the Bulls to own a slight edge on the boards—helped the Bulls gradually chip away at the deficit as halftime approached, despite contributions from Williams and offensive-minded Nets reserves MarShon Brooks and Andray Blatche.
At the intermission, the Bulls, who showed an ability to get to the free-throw line in the first half, were on the wrong end of a 47-36 game.
After the break, Williams became the Nets’ offensive focal point, but the hosts couldn’t immediately extend their level of separation from the visitors.
Boozer emerged as the Bulls’ top scoring option to help his team remain within striking distance, while Deng and Kirk Hinrich (10 points, six assists) also chipped in to trim the deficit, making it a two-possession game halfway through the third quarter.
Stout defense, Boozer’s dominance and timely scoring from his quartet of teammates on the floor—the Bulls didn’t substitute for the entire period—got the Bulls back into the contest and they eventually knotted things up at 65 on a Butler triple with 3.6 seconds remaining in the frame.
The game’s momentum was completely in the Bulls’ favor at that point, but with 0.3 seconds left, Williams drew Hinrich’s fifth foul—on a three-point attempt, to boot—and heading into the final stanza, the Bulls were still behind, albeit by the much more manageable score of 67-65.
The visitors took their first lead of the evening early in the fourth quarter, on a Deng layup with 10:42 to go, overtaking the Nets and prompting a timeout.
Veteran center Nazr Mohammed picking up his fifth foul—Robinson, who replaced Hinrich, got hit with his fourth shortly upon being reinserted, then received his fifth foul midway through the period—didn’t help matters, however, but after briefly relinquishing their lead, the Bulls clung to control of the contest.
Heading into the game’s stretch run, it became a battle of attrition for the visitors—Hinrich fouled out on a Williams three-point play with 3:38 on the clock—but the Bulls persevered, as clutch shots by Boozer and Butler kept them in front, though another Williams layup, plus the foul, regained the lead for Brooklyn, 85-84, with under two minutes to play.
It was a back-and-forth affair as the game headed toward its conclusion and after a long Deng two-pointer made it 90-89, in the Nets’ favor, the visitors forced a turnover, resulting in a Robinson floater to give the Bulls the lead with 22.7 seconds left, leading to Lopez missing a layup on the subsequent possession—the home crowd was very vocal about its objection to the non-call—and reserve Daequan Cook, in the game for defensive purposes, splitting a pair of attempts from the charity stripe.
Following a timeout, Brooklyn had a final opportunity with 5.5 seconds remaining, but a Lopez baseline jumper rolled in and out, giving the Bulls a hard-fought victory.